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Joshua Trinidad

College: CUNY Baccalaureate Degree
Awards: Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship, 2015

Speaking Up for Diplomacy

Joshua Trinidad has pursued languages for pleasure. Now, with a federally funded 2015 Charles E. Rangel Graduate Fellowship, he will prepare to put them to work as a Foreign Service diplomat.

Thanks to the grant, Trinidad (CUNY B.A./Hunter, World Languages and Literatures/Translation and Interpretation, '12) will pursue a master's at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. The top-tier fellowship program includes two internships, one on Capitol Hill this summer and one in an embassy overseas next summer.

"I'm going to grad school to study international relations, because even though I have a linguistic background and have lived in France, Japan and Colombia, I don't have a firm grasp on how foreign policy, the State Department and the American government work. I'm shifting gears," he says.

Born in Miami and raised by grandparents in Puerto Rico, Trinidad spoke Spanish as a child, but lost it back in Florida before his academic quest led him to recapture it while also taking up French and Japanese.

He started at the public Florida Gulf Coast University in 2002, but financial difficulties forced him to leave to work full time. Two years later he was in New York City, working, establishing residency for in-state tuition and saving money. He started at Hunter College part time in 2006 while providing full-time customer support for a software company.

The CUNY Baccalaureate Program attracted him "because I couldn't settle on just one language to study. With French and Spanish, I could major in Romance languages, but I had to get Japanese in there."

He enhanced his Spanish with a winter session in Puerto Rico financed by a $1,000 CUNY B.A. Terrence L. Tenney Scholarship for Language Study.

He also won three other federal grants. A Benjamin Gillman International Fellowship took him to Paris to study French, Japanese and translation in 2011-2012, while simultaneously teaching high school English for the French Ministry of Education. He follow that up with a Critical Language Fellowship, studying Japanese in Kyoto, Japan, in the summer 2012; he had started learning that language in high school, when he was obsessed with anime. A 2013-2014 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship sent him to the Universad Cooperativa de Colombia in Bucaramanga.

In 2014 he won a private Kathryn Davis Fellows for Peace Scholarship to study Japanese full time at Middlebury College. "You have to sign a pledge to speak only Japanese, hang out only with people in your program and only watch TV in Japanese. You can get so fluent in two months!"

Trinidad says he is aiming for the State Department's public diplomacy track. Public diplomacy work includes giving speeches in the local language, doing public relations abroad and organizing cultural and academic events. "I'm really excited about getting into a career that brings about positive change."

The 30 Rangel Fellowships this year encourage members of historically underrepresented minority groups to serve as Foreign Service officers. They agree to work as diplomats for at least five years after graduation.